Accor puts finishing touches on Ecuador hotel

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QUITO, Ecuador -- Accor, which took over management of the former Hotel Alameda Real here in August 2002, is in the final stages of a $2 million overhaul designed to transform the property into a deluxe hotel in the middle of Ecuador's capital.

The project is expected to be completed next year, but the public areas were fully rolled out at the beginning of this month, so, as the property's salespeople are saying, this is a "new hotel" now.

The upgrade at the newly named Grand Hotel Mercure Alameda Quito started in the guest rooms: Work is complete now in 60 of the 147 units.

The finished units, called the Mercure Rooms, feature lots of white, which, with thick comforters and other soft goods, makes for a comfortable environment.

The bathrooms are sleek and, in some units, quite large. Rooms have new radios plus minibars, hair dryers and bathrobes.

At the time of my visit, the public areas still were under reconstruction, but signage announced coming attractions: a coffee shop/deli called Spice and a fine-dining establishment called L'Aioli. Spice opened in October, L'Aioli at the beginning of this month.

This month's rollout of renovations also encompassed the front desk area and the lobby bar, called Globe Walker.

The remaining 87 "classic" rooms will be brought up to the Mercure standard sometime in 2004, a spokesman said.

Located near embassies, the financial district and commercial centers, the property is suited to business travelers. It also has a business center.

The hotel is a few blocks' walk from the Galeria Latina, a two-level store offering the finest examples of souvenir items, including those that qualify as art rather than crafts; shoppers also should ask to see the roomful of the owner's museum pieces that are not for sale.

Along the same street and at the other end of the shopping spectrum is the Mercado Artesanal, an indoor/outdoor market with countless stands selling low-cost versions of most types of souvenirs offered in Ecuador.

I also walked to the Old Town, which was on the first list of Unesco World Heritage Sites, but it is better considered a short cab ride away.

Room rates for 2004 are $100 for a standard, $110 for a junior suite and $140 for a suite -- all plus 22% taxes and service charges. Prices include a buffet breakfast.

For more information, call (011) 593-2 256-2345 or e-mail [email protected].

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